Thursday, April 27, 2017

New Orleans Poetry Festival 2017

last weekend i had the distinct pleasure of attending the second annual new orleans poetry festival. being a louisiana writer, publishing colleague, and friend of the organizers, megan burns and bill lavender, i had attended and loved the first one as well. clearly i'm biased--even more so because of the setting--so i'll just get into some of the inspiring experiences i had over the weekend.

the poets with bands concert is always a blast, and i got to watch brett evan's band the skin verbs (finally!) and kelcy mae both kill it, before going out to grab oysters and beers with my new friend and talented denver poet teow lim goh, who was introduced to me online by a mutual friend and former lsu colleague.

friday am started with "o galactic black wild,"a memorial panel for new orleans painter and poet daniel reinhold and unlikely books editor and poet, michelle greenblatt. i was not familiar with daniel's body of work but i admired hearing his story of recovery, his sensitive and funny (not an easy feat to pull off; for instance, one poem dealt with getting a heart transplant with a piƱata) poems read by his friends and family, and the anecdotes of him kicking around the city with everette maddox. the second half of the panel was a tribute to michelle greenblatt from her friend and clockwise cat publisher, alison ross, and her unlikely books friends and family. alison, jonathan penton and roz spencer read from her collections ashes and seeds and her new posthumous book, brain : storm.  christopher shipman read some poems inspired by michelle's voice and emails while helping us edit _a ship on the line. i commemorated michelle by reading a eulogy i wrote for her and an excerpt from my introduction to another posthumous publication, a book of ghazals she wrote in collaboration with sheila murphy.

the sacred grove reading series hosted one of the best readings of the festival--what a climax for their final reading before a "permanent hiatus!" every reader was stellar, and it was the most lively and diverse reading i attended. jenn marie nunes 4-person collaborative translation reading of the same poem's correlating lines through multiple drafts of revision really evidenced her claim to make the translation process more transparent, and it certainly modeled a more performative way to convey translation. tim jones-yelvington bec[a]me on [our] face with a wonderful poem and performance about being the supermodel of poetry, lauren hunter (freshly published with my friendys, birds, llc.) made me question all our human achievements, kwoya fagin maples read seat-writhing and haunting poems about the experimental slave subjects in alabama, and rushelle frazier closed with one of the most honest and endearing love poems that i won't soon forget.  

later my former teacher, laura mullen introduced me to lisa samuels, a very kind poet living in new zealand doing cool things with sound, and laura very generously gifted me lisa's newest book, symphony for human transport lisa delivered a sonic reading complete with an echo device that i wish i talked more to her about.  chuck perkins sang and bellowed poems that owned the audience, having no need for a mic, and another former teacher, rodger kamenetz inspired us all with heartfelt poems and alligator atheist allegories.

the next day, i showed up late (surprise, surprise)--missing rodger's dream workshop i had intended to write a great poem in; then i skipped the lunch read in favor of hanging out with zander at the open mic stage--his volunteer duty was hosting for several hours. bill informed me we missed a grand dada reading (martin mattos and luis bravo), which i regret a little, but we had a blast goofing around, drinking beer, reading our most unpolished poetry, and delving into our own dada mobile google performances. afterwards i caught the trembling pillow press read and got to hear an exciting preview of lsu peer, kristen sander's cuntry (read by jenn), which included a poem that starts with garth brooks in a ball gag (what could be better?) as well as longer reads from lisa donovan's new work, red of split water, and lauren ireland, who absolutely relieved my ears from all the intentionally bad poetry i'd been reading at the open mic with her amazing moon poem. next i got to hear my new friend teow read from her stellar and informative work, islanders, which gives voices to the detained chinese women and immigrants the us detained at angel island before the second world war.

late from dinner break, i only saw rodrigo toscano at the evening read, but did he ever steal the moment with his inspiring and hilarious performance that weaved millennial voices, politics, bar napkin scribbles, and sound poetry. i captured an excerpt from his last poem for you (see below).

finally, the bookfair, like at awp, is always one of my favorite places to hang, network, and shitshoot with like creative minds, not to mention stock up on some loot of the lute too (see pic below). paul cunningham gave me some great tips on cool translations presses. i had a great conversation with ralph adamo at xavier review, not to mention getting him to autograph my copy of ever (lavender ink). i also finally got my copy of nancy's no lit anthology, and i had a big fun chatting it up and getting to know the gigantic sequins and big lucks books crew. then the call girls (bill and shippy's punk band) rocked the house, and the poets danced. the occasion also served as a reunion with many gulf coast writer friends. safe to say, see you next year nola poetry fest!

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